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A Perth Foodie's Adventures in Hong Kong

"Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are" - Brillat-Savarin

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Donovan Brothers Pure 80% Cocoa Dark Chocolate
My name is Jean, and I am a chocoholic. Yes, I have a chocolate addiction and I confess to eating dark chocolates everyday, but no, I don't think I have a problem and I am certainly not about to kick that habit. Especially since there are so many types of good quality (read: expensive) chocolates available in Hong Kong, all waiting for my hungry tastebuds and tummy! I remember how excited we were when we saw the beautiful range of dark chocolates in New York, and it's a similar situation in HK. We have already tried quite a number of the high-end dark chocolates on the supermarket shelves since moving to HK a few months ago, and some were good but most were not up to our liking. As a general rule, I avoid buying German brands because they haven't been that great. I do try to be responsible and buy free trade and organic, but unfortunately I haven't liked them as much as I wanted (for example, the Theo brand 85% dark chocolate had a rather obnoxious flavour that just didn't agree with my tastebuds). Rob mentioned recently that I ought to take note of the ones we like, just like how I used to when I first added a chocolate tag to my journal. Better late than never, right?

Our favourite choccie of the moment is the Donovan Brothers Pure 80% dark chocolate from New Zealand. This was a bit of a surprise because I didn't expect it to be as good as the European chocolates, and I was taking a chance on a rather large 210g bar - what if we didn't like it? We loved it - very smooth, and it wasn't as bitter as I'd expected for a chocolate containing 80% cacao. There are no additives, no preservatives, and no added flavours - just cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and sugar. I like!

Cheesy Muffin Recipe
If I had to choose between muffins or cupcakes, I would choose muffins hands down. There's something about the rustic simplicity of muffins that appeals to me. They taste good without needing any brightly coloured icing and toppings, and eating a muffin (or three) feels like I'm indulging in a treat without it being too unhealthy. Most of all, I just love the fact that baking muffins is so simple, easy and quick to do. Baking helps me to relax, and baking muffins is perfect for when I need to take a little breather from my busy life but am too tired for baking anything more involved. I have baked savoury muffins before, and this cheese muffin recipe is a much simpler and quicker version of that. A friend who paid us a short visit ate a muffin fresh out of the oven, and asked me for the recipe (which is the nicest compliment I could get for my cooking). My 2-year-old boy loves eating these cheesy muffins, and I have no qualms giving them to him because they are pretty healthy and nutritious.

Cheesy muffins


2 cups (250g) plain flour
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon (~15g) caster sugar
1 cup (~75g) coarsely grated cheese (I used a mix of cheddar and parmesan)
1 1/4 cups (250mL) milk
1/4 cup (50mL) olive oil
2 eggs
extra grated cheese for topping


1. Preheat oven to 190°C.
2. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl, then stir in sugar and cheese.
4. In a jug, combine the wet ingredients (milk, oil and eggs) and whisk lightly.
5. Add the wet mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and combine well.
6. Spoon mixture into a 12-muffin tray to only 2/3 full, and top with extra grated cheese.
7. Bake for 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Stand for 5 minutes in pan before turning onto a wire rack to cool.
8. Best enjoyed fresh and warm out of the oven, and freezes well.

Food court eats @ Food Republic (Citygate), Hong Kong
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with food courts. On the one hand, there's a wide variety of food to choose from that are quite affordable. On the other hand, food quality is a bit of a hit-and-miss, and dining in a noisy hall on a hastily wiped-down table and using plastic cutlery leave a lot to be desired. Last weekend we went out on a rare (and short) shopping excursion to Citygate Outlets. We spent less than an hour shopping for Zak's clothes, and then looked for lunch. The Food Republic food court happened to be on the same floor as the last shop we were at, and having a variety of food appealed to us. Just as well we didn't dine in a proper restaurant because the 2-year-old was not on his best behaviour. The first three stalls we walked past were Singaporean, Thai and Korean, and we didn't make it beyond these three as we'd already made up our minds what we were going to eat for lunch. The Dolsot Bibimbap (rice with meat and veges in hot stone bowl) from the Korean food stall proved to be a winner, whereas the Nasi Lemak from the Singaporean one could be better. When I saw the Thai stall offering my favourite green leafies, Kangkung (aka morning glory, water spinach), I just had to get a plate. The average price for each dish was around HK$40, which made the meal a whole lot cheaper than the previous weekend's lunch. The food court looked clean enough, the food were cooked to order, and they were ready in a jiffy - perfect for a quick bite whilst at the shops.

Piping hot Dolsot Bibimbap from Korea House, which was super-tasty:

The delicious crunchy burnt rice at the bottom (called "okoge" in Japan):

Nasi Lemak from the Singaporean stall, served with beef rendang - the sambal had a decent spicy kick, the rendang was only average and the soup that came with the set was not worth drinking:

Kangkung, done very spicy - I could easily have eaten the whole thing on my own:

It was a rather enjoyable meal, and the best thing was being able to order a variety of dishes from different stalls. We headed home after lunch, which meant that half the time we were at the mall was actually spent eating, but we were perfectly fine with that.

Baked Whole Fish Recipe
When it comes to cooking fish, I think one of the worst things to do would be to dredge it in thick batter and then deep-fry it beyond any recognition in terms of appearance and flavours. Overcooking fish and drowning them in heavy sauces are the other two sacrilegious acts done to fish. Unfortunately, these three fish cooking methods are favoured in Australia, and it's no wonder then that eating fish (or any seafood, for that matter) does not rate very highly on most Australian palates, which is a shame because of the abundance of beautiful fresh seafood available right on their shores! We all know the health benefits of including fish in our diet, and I try to cook fish at least two meals a week. My current favourite way of cooking fish is so simple that I am almost embarrassed that I am blogging about it. It's not really so much a recipe as a demonstration on how easy it is to cook a whole fish, and I hope to encourage more people to enjoy fish as part of their meals-at-home repertoire. I buy whole fish from the supermarket at the mall downstairs, where the fish is already scaled and gutted, and spring onion, ginger and red chili are also included (I add garlic to the mix too). There is also a tank of live fish at the supermarket, and Zak loves watching the (doomed) fishies swim around while I decide which fish to have for dinner. (By the way, one of Zak's favourite food is fish, which I hope will stay with him as he grows up.) The intention of the spring onion, ginger and chili is for steaming, but I don't have a steamer or pot big enough for a 1/2kg fish, so I bake the whole fish instead. Where would I be without an oven! This baked whole fish takes less than 30 minutes to prep and cook, which is perfect for a mid-week dinner for three (well, two adults and a little one). This particular fish is sea snapper, but I think most fish sold whole at supermarkets will work as long as it fits in your oven. Selecting a fresh fish is important, especially for this recipe, and it's easy to judge freshness with a whole fish (clear eyes, firm flesh, no overly strong fishy smell). There are plenty of ways to bake a fish, but this is how I do it, a simple no-fuss method that allows the delicate flavours of fish to stand on its own.

Baked Whole Fish


A whole fish, about 500g
Spring onions
Ginger, about the size of your thumb
3 cloves garlic
Red chili (optional)


1) Preheat oven to 200degC. While waiting for the oven to heat up, slice up some spring onion, ginger, garlic and red chilli.

2) Prepare some aluminium foil, about 3 times the length of the whole fish. Fold a third of the foil over to create a double layer of foil where the fish will sit on. Ensure that the shiny side will not be facing out because the shiny surface will reflect the oven heat away from the packet, which is NOT desirable.

3) If necessary, wash the fish, and then cut three slits into both sides of the fish. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and rub onto its surfaces and inside the emptied gut cavity. Place the fish onto the prepared alfoil.

4) Put the sliced spring onion, ginger, garlic and chili inside the cavity as well as under and on top of the fish so that the fragrance will permeate on both sides of the fish.

5) Wrap up the fish with the free (single layer) end of the foil, leaving a bit of air pocket above the fish to prevent it from sticking to the foil while cooking. Place the fish parcel in the preheated oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes.

Serve the fish with rice and stir-fried vegetables.

After serving up Rob's and Zak's portions (keeping them as de-boned as possible), I happily sit down to eat my portion straight off the bone, savouring the best parts (in my opinion) that can only be found near or with bones which includes the succulent cheek flesh and the fatty belly. Not something to do when you have dinner guests over! Ah, the simple pleasures!

Superb Japanese @ Inagiku (Four Seasons), Hong Kong
One of the great things about living in the big smoke is that you don't have to look very hard for an amazing dining experience to sweeten the bad taste in the mouth left by a crap experience. Of course, good and bad have to go hand in hand together, because the good cannot be fully appreciated without the bad. Last Sunday we thought it would be fun for my son if we took the short 10 minute ferry ride from our side of Hong Kong (ie Kowloon aka "the dark side") to Central. Zak loved it. Once at Central, we made the impromptu decision to have lunch at the fabulous Inagiku in the Four Seasons. It's kinda ironic, considering the fact that we had the wonderful opportunity to stay at the Four Seasons for a month after our arrival in HK, and we never even thought about having a meal at Inagiku. Mind you, we had just moved from Japan, so we were more interested in the wide variety of food available here in HK other than Japanese food. I also doubt that we would have appreciated the experience as much as we did on Sunday because we wouldn't have anything to compare it with. It would be like going from Japanese food paradise in Japan to Japanese food paradise in Hong Kong, and not knowing any different. Hm, that actually doesn't sound too bad at all. Anyway, knowing how bad sushi can get in HK made us love our lunch at Inagiku even more.

Incredibly shy chefs at the teppanyaki station:

Inagiku HK is inspired by the renowned restaurant of the same name in Tokyo, which is one of the oldest and well-known restaurant in all of Japan. The restaurant decor is quite beautiful with a mixture of traditional and modern Japanese artwork, and the floor-to-celing views of the Harbour doesn't hurt either. There's the choice of sitting at the teppanyaki station, the sushi bar or table, and if we were sans toddler, we would have preferred sitting where we can watch the chefs in action. Service is pretty good (for HK standards), and the staff made sure that we were as comfortable as we could be dining with a 2 year old. The menu was pretty extensive, offering kaiseki, signature tempura, teppanyaki, sushi and sashimi.

We could see our apartment building all the way across the harbour, from our table at Inagiku:

I wanted to sample the best that Inagiku could offer, but I couldn't be bothered ordering individually from the a-la-carte menu, so I went for their Holiday Premium Lunch Menu. Rob followed suit, even though he was quite surprised at my choice because we'd originally wanted a light lunch. As you can see below, this lunch set had a bit of everything, and they were all good! Even the tempura, and that's from a person who doesn't like battered-then-deep-fried stuff!

Duo of appetiser, part 1 - Dried kaki persimmon and spinach with black soybean. Nice combination of sweet and savoury:

Appetiser, part 2 - Komochi konbu (herring roe on kelp) with slices of pickled turnip. Delicious crunchy roe:

Steamed egg custard (chawan mushi) with zuwaigani (snow crab) meat. This was really good, and contained mochi, yurine (lily root/bulb), shiitake and ginkgo nuts:

Smooth, silky and tasty egg custard:

Tempura course - included live shrimp, scallop, fish and seasonal vegetables. Crisp and light batter that wasn't overly greasy, and super-fresh ingredients:

Teppanyaki course - U.S beef steak or roll, and we got one of each. Beef roll here (thin slices of beef with onion and pepper):

Teppanayaki course - Beef steak. Loved the simple presentation of the beef, which can only be done for good quality beef:

Sushi course, which was infinitely better than the sushi at Sen-ryo. Six types of nigirizushi: aburi-toro (seared tuna belly), saba (mackerel), flounder, ikura (salmon roe, as we requested for Zak who loves popping these little salty orbs in his mouth) and uni (sea urchin roe); and six pieces of salmon makisushi. The miso soup and pickled vegetables were also pretty nice:

Dessert course: Matcha ice cream with rice flour dumpling, Japanese strawberry, soba cookie with black honey. Matcha-flavoured ice cream is such a clichéd Japanese dessert, but I love it! :

This was a great meal. I was happy to eat delicious Japanese food again, just like the ones we used to get during our time in Japan. It was on the pricey side, but honestly, I'd rather pay a little bit more, especially for sushi and raw seafood, than risk getting food poisoning. There is another Inagiku restaurant on the Kowloon side which has gotten good reviews and is a bit cheaper, so we may head there the next time we feel like having Japanese food.

Spit-roasting at home
Roasting meat on a spit may be as primitive as cooking meat can get, but it actually isn't as simple as I thought it would be. As I briefly mentioned in my Christmas post we'd bought a table-top Delonghi oven that happened to come with a rotisserie spit feature. Although we chose this oven primarily for its size (it was the largest table-top oven we could find), I must admit that the idea of spit-roasting a chook at home was novel. Last Friday I made an attempt at spit-roasting a chicken, and it took more effort and hence a longer time than I'd expected. I'm sure it was mainly due to my uncertainty and lack of experience as a beginner, and hopefully with time I will be serving home-cooked rotisserie chicken that is as good as those that come out of high-end consumer ovens, like at the supermarket in the mall downstairs.

Skewered whole chicken on a spit before it went in the oven. I should have tied the legs to secure the bird to the spit, but didn't have any kitchen twine:

In the oven and rotating. The roasting was interrupted a couple of times, because I didn't tie the legs (it flopped about a bit too much for my liking as it rotated). I did tie the legs eventually (see photo below):

90 minutes later, and the chook was done. Notice the legs are tied here. I had to improvise with paper twine (intended for tying newspaper and magazines into bundles for recycling), which seemed to work fine:

Golden crispy chicken sitting on the board waiting for the shears:

How did this first rotisserie chicken compare to the usual roast chicken I do? Presentation-wise, it looked beautiful with golden crisp skin all the way around. Taste-wise, the meat was dryer than a chook roasted in its juices in a pan. As it stands, I think I still prefer roasting chicken the traditional way in a roasting pan, because I can also get some roast veges done at the same time. I will continue using the oven's spit-roast fuction, and hopefully will be effortlessly churning out rotisserie chicken like a pro soon!

Disappointing sushi @ Sen-ryo, Hong Kong
We had mediocre sushi for lunch last Sunday at the mall downstairs, and we really should have known better. Online reviews of the Sen-ryo restaurant chain seem to indicate that you can get fresh seafood and good sushi at one of the sushi joints, but these reviewers have obviously not eaten good quality sushi before (like the ones from Tsukiji market, near where we used to live). The last time I had sushi was more than 4 months ago, just before we moved from Tokyo to Hong Kong. This crappy sushi experience did nothing to satisfy my sushi craving, and in fact it made me miss Japan all the more. Sen-ryo wasn't cheap either (about HK$380 for 16 sushi pieces), and I shudder to think how bad it gets at the cheaper sushi places. Most of the sushi items were passable but definitely not at their prime. Even the sushi rice grains were stale and hard. Definitely do not order uni (sea urchin), which is usually one of my favourite sushi. Unfresh uni is pretty gross, and this is the reason why so many people hate uni. The sushi in the photos don't look too bad, but looks are deceiving and our taste buds don't lie.

Anago (sea eel) was probably the most palatable item, but it wasn't prepared and presented to its full potential:

Highly unremarkable Chuu-toro (medium fatty tuna) and Aburi-salmon (seared salmon):

Ama-ebi (sweet shrimp) that wasn't sweet or creamy, and Hotate that was a bit dry:

Seafood roll - had cucumber, a type of pickled vege, flying fish roe and minced tuna. Not too bad actually, but nothing exceptional:

Slightly fishy tasting Ikura (salmon roe) that didn't really "pop" when chewed, an indication that it was past its prime:

We gave Sen-ryo a try (mostly because we were hoping not having to go too far from home for good sushi), and we give it a thumbs-down. Japanese sushi chefs have such great pride in serving really good quality seafood, and you won't find this at Sen-ryo. However, we had some fantastic Japanese food yesterday (by Japanese chefs!), and I'll blog about it soon.

Noodles @ Lok Yuen Beef Ball King, Hong Kong
It's the second day of the Lunar Year of the Rabbit, and I want to take the opportunity to wish everyone Gong Xi Fa Cai (it means "wishing you prosperity" in Mandarin Chinese). Since noodles is traditionally a "lucky" food to eat during the New Year celebration period (for most, if not all, Asian cultures), I thought I would blog about our experience at a Hong Kong noodle shop with my dad when he was visiting us a few weeks ago. Noodle restaurants are ubiquitous on the HK street scene, offering hungry pedestrians a quick and cheap meal. Wander down any busy street and you're bound to come across one (or several) noodle shops. Lok Yuen Beef Ball King (樂園牛丸大王) was one of the many noodle shops we came across around lunch time while making our way from the Flower Market and the Bird Garden to the Ladies' Market (via the Goldfish Market) in Mong Kok. As the name suggests, this noodle shop specialises in beef ball noodles, and, unbeknownst to us at the time, apparently it is pretty famous in HK as it is said that Lok Yuen's beef and fish maw balls were the inspiration for Stephen Chow's movie The God of Cookery. I don't know how true that is, but it was good we had an early lunch because the place had filled up pretty quickly by the time we were finished.

It's a pretty simple noodle shop that looked clean enough (our main priority when dining out impromptu with a toddler), and the menu had English on it which made it easy for us to order. The staff didn't speak much English, so we were once again grateful for my dad's Cantonese-speaking ability. We could choose from different five types of noodles - egg noodle, thick egg noodle, hor fun (wide rice noodles), mai fun (rice vermicelli) and mai sin (rice spaghettini) - or no noodles at all (which would defeat the point of going to a noodleshop!). The food came out pretty quickly, which was great because we needed a quick meal (the slow food concept does not work with toddlers). My dad ordered the first item on the menu, the Beef balls noodle (with hor fun), which he said was "ok lah". Rob went for the fancy Four specialty noodle (with hor fun) which, at HK$30, was the most expensive item on the menu (which is still pretty cheap). It had beef balls, black-peppered beef balls, pork balls, fish balls, fish rolls, fish slice and another unidentified piece - more than four types anyway. This bowl gave a pretty good idea of which ones to go for next time if we find ourselves at Luk Yuen again. Rob quite enjoyed his bowl of noodles.

Four specialty noodles with beef, pork and fish done in several different styles:

I got the Fish dumplings noodle (with hand-kneaded fish noodles, additional HK$10), which came with five fish dumplings that were very tasty. The broth was a bit too salty for my liking, but I think a lot of the saltiness came from the fish noodles. The hand-hneaded fish noodle was delicious with fishy flavours, but there was too little of it! It would probably be a good idea to order double portion of the fish noodles. I liked the fish dumplings better than any of the protein in Rob's noodles.

Fish dumplings:

Hand-kneaded fish noodles:

Not a bad place to stop for a tasty quick bite.

Swedish-style Meatballs
One of the main reasons why I cook a lot at home - other than the fact that I love cooking - is because of my son's food allergies. It is not a simple matter of giving him food from restaurants, shops and supermarkets, especially in Asia where soy is used very extensively and staff don't understand what or why I'm asking about ingredients in the food. His allergies also mean that I can't take shortcuts and use frozen or processed food because most of the packaged food (including cereals, biscuits and even baby/toddler food) contain at least traces of soy, nuts and sesame. It's not easy dealing with food allergies, but it's a good thing that I enjoy cooking because I have to cook a lot. My cooking philosophy has always been pretty simple: cook from scratch using minimally processed ingredients, and serve food that I myself would eat. That means I generally avoid using minced meat because I want to cook meat and not fat and gristly bits that usually gets minced together with the meat. I am trying to incorporate more red meat in Zak's diet, but the relative toughness of red meat means that I have to use minced red meat a lot, so I buy the more expensive packs of minced meat that are better quality than the cheaper ones. I seriously need to expand my minced meat repertoire beyond spaghetti and lasagne because I get pretty bored cooking the same dishes, even if it is repeated only once or twice a month (there's cannelloni and dumplings, but they are time and labour intensive, not so great for mid-week meals).

Zak's dinner plate with the meatballs - he prefers the meat and sauce separate from the carb:

This is my first meatball recipe, loosely adapted from this recipe on taste.com.au. I was happy to find that cranberries make a good substitute for lingonberries because I still had some whole cranberry sauce leftover from Christmas. I wanted a tender and soft-textured meatball, so I added a little bit of vinegar and cornstarch to the meatball and allowed it to marinate for a short while (~20 minutes). I also had some cream of chicken leftover from a previous meal, so I used that instead of chicken stock and sour cream. I intended to add dried parsley to the meatball mixture, but totally forgot (that's the trouble with not writing down the recipe for reference). The meatballs turned out quite well, and the boys loved it! I made double portions to make an easy dinner for another night, and I found that the meatballs were a little sweeter, possibly from absorbing the gravy they were sitting in for two nights in the refrigerator.

Swedish-style Meatballs


450g minced pork
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons whole cranberry sauce (substitute for lingonberry sauce)
1 tablespoon tomato sauce/ketchup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup cream of chicken (I used Pacific Natural Foods Organic Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup which requires dilution with equal parts water)
2/3 cup water

1. Combine the minced pork, vinegar, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a large bowl and allow to marinate for about 20 minutes.
2. In the meantime, saute the onion and garlic on medium heat until cooked (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool.
3. Combine the cooled onion mixture, minced pork mixture, 2 tablespoons of the whole cranberry sauce and tomato sauce/ketchup in a large bowl and mix well. Form tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls.
4. Heat oil in a large fry pan on medium-high heat and cook the meatballs for a few minutes, turning occasionally until well-browned and almost cooked through. If necessary, cook in two batches to avoid over-crowding. Remove meatballs and set aside.
5. Combine the cream of chicken and water, and add to the pan. Gently heat over medium heat while stirring, then add the remaining berry sauce and combine well. Return meatballs to the pan, and simmer for a few minutes.
6. Serve with mashed potatoes and vegetables for a complete meal.